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Higher Ed Ingenuity: Delivering Treats Without Tricks

In the wake of NACAC’s recent annual meeting—where member representatives voted to drop parts of NACAC’s ethics code that had been deemed anti-competitive by the U.S. Department of Justice—worries abounded about increased competition for what demographic trends show is a dwindling population of high school graduates. Earlier this month in The Chronicle Review, several friends of Lawlor Advisory shared their viewpoints on the challenges and opportunities that colleges and universities face:

“If colleges don’t make bold decisions, the market will make them for us. We must collaborate internally to identify new academic programs, better retention methods, new modes of delivery, and other approaches that speak to what families seek and are willing to pay for.” —Madeleine Rhyneer

“Colleges have been reluctant to change, or to be boldly distinctive, for one simple reason: In our industry, innovation is dangerous. If you take a big risk and it’s successful, everyone soon shares the payoff on your bet. If you fail, the cost and the consequences fall squarely on you.” —Jon Boeckenstedt

“In the current climate, even compelling student outreach tactics won’t necessarily help. … The institutions that will thrive are those that are creatively addressing their pipeline and working to identify who, beyond the traditional pool of students, might be available to them.” —Stefanie D. Niles

“Colleges must be willing to radically reimagine their business models. This does not mean redefining who they are and what they do; it’s about doing new things. … Colleges should emulate successful businesses—figure out what their ‘customers’ need and design products and experiences to meet those needs.” —Angel B. Pérez

The emerging consensus is that colleges and universities cannot afford to not innovate. As our very own John Lawlor noted in an Inside Higher Ed special report on tuition discounting, any fundamental changes need to be strategic initiatives and not simply promotional tactics. In the spirit of Halloween, the rallying cry should be “Treats, Not Tricks.” Innovation is not an end in itself, warns an excerpt from a new Chronicle Intelligence report, “The Innovation Imperative: The Buzz, the Barriers, and What Real Change Looks Like.” It takes successfully operationalizing new ideas to ensure that students authentically benefit from a college’s ingenuity and enhanced value proposition.


Recruitment Ethics Changes

The National Association for College Admission Counseling ethics code became a battleground over prospective students’ best interests. (Chronicle)

Shifting Needs of the Marketplace

“Preparing a Traditional University for the 60-Year Curriculum” considers how information-age skills and demographic trends will drive change. (EvoLLLution)

Spotlight on Tuition Discounting

Colleges and universities will need a nuanced view of discount rates and the trends affecting them to successfully navigate the future. (Inside Higher Ed)


Lawlor Recommends

At Lawlor Advisory, we speak extensively about necessity of thinking differently and then doing the work of making change. For too many private nonprofit institutions, the existing business model is showing major cracks (if it hasn’t actually broken already). But these times of turmoil also provide an opportunity to stand out with distinction and relevance in the higher education marketplace. Lawlor Advisory can bring viable solutions and help facilitate, guide, and inform your efforts during this time when colleges and universities must take decisive action. Now is the time to DO.